Tag Archive | Hanna K. Nyström

“Jelly Beans Have Power” Review

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Original Airdate: January 27, 2017

Written & Storyboarded by: Aleks Sennwald & Hanna K. Nyström

I dunno why but, before I had revisited this one, I almost completely forgot what had happened in it. Maybe it’s because I was heavily intoxicated inside of a college dorm bathroom when I first watched this one (new Adventure Time waits for NOTHING), but aside from the main plot, I struggled to remember key elements about this episode’s contents. My incoherence may have had something to do with it, but truth be told, I think this one’s a bit scattershot when handling PB’s character arc, at least in my eyes. Even having seen it 4-5 times by now, I still kind of scratch my head wondering, “what was Prubs upset about again?”

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Her pain stems from so many different corners that it never feels entirely cohesive what she’s going through, which is usually AT‘s strong point, but it kind of works against this episode because it seems like the writers are seeking to put her problems out in the open. First, it appears PB is jealous of Slime Princess for unlocking her skills in elemental prowess prior to herself, which leads PB into attempting to unlock her own abilities. When finally unlocked, PB utilizes her abilities to show-off in front of Slime Princess, and to show that they’re both on equal levels. At first, it seemed like this was an obvious representation of Princess Bubblegum wanting to be the alpha-princess in Ooo. PB has been previously worried about her own Kingdom’s state of power and ability to survive in episodes like The Cooler and High Strangeness, so I kind of figured that PB’s jealousy stemmed from her own fears of being inferior within her own kingdom. That’s… kind of what it is, but also not really. Upon speaking with Pepbut, PB tells him that she’s simply distressed over the fact that she ignored a crucial part of her existence when she should have recognized the ability to begin with. Ooookay, but how does that connect with her attitudes prior toward Slime Princess? SP only knew she possessed said power when speaking to Patience St. Pim – it’s something that NOBODY knew about until the eventual revelation. So I’m not really sure I understand how PB’s anxiety actually meshes with her feelings of envy. Hell, it doesn’t even seem like it should really matter. Bubblegum has created her own massive kingdom and defense system, as well as a reliance on her own physical strength and technology, so I’m not really sure why she feels so forced to channel this power in the first place. Again, it could tie in with her own desires to be on the same pedestal as other powerful princesses, but looking “deeper into” her stressors kind of retconned that for unnecessary reasons.

While battling off the “crystal” device, PB once again laments about her inability to understand her newfangled powers over her own understanding of science, but again, nobody is really forcing her to do so. When she finally combines her knowledge of science with her own elemental abilities, it results in a giant explosion, in which PB is looked upon as a “monster” of the sorts. Once more, I thought this was a bit unnecessary. Regardless of whether her powers impacted the blow or not, a giant, weaponized crystal is going to cause damage regardless of how PB attempts to stop it. And given that the episode puts her character in a more sympathetic perspective about halfway through, it never really feels like PB has any reason to be at blame for her actions. Had she continued with her somewhat arrogant and one-uppy behavior, this ending would have ultimately felt more powerful and impactful. There’s also the notion that it’s only Candy People who were hurt, which sounds kind of fucked up, but they can easily be put back together, as shown numerous times. I’m sure they didn’t wanna go too dark with this ending, but c’mon, if you want me to actually believe that Bubblegum is a overpowered zealot, realistic approaches to psychological or physical damage are necessary. I overall thought her arc over the course of this episode was pretty sloppy, as it struggled to find a true focus for her character, and it doesn’t even really come into play later on. Bit of a spoiler, but Bubblegum’s struggle with her elemental abilities only worsens when Patience St. Pim takes over, and really has nothing to do with PB’s own character or choices. It feels like a bit of wasted character exploration.

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With all of that criticism aside, I actually do like this episode. I think it’s unfocused from a character perspective, but it has a lot of really fun and enjoyable stuff going on. Most of that fun stems from the fact that Peppermint Butler has a major role in this one, and man, the staff really never fucks up when writing for him. Pepbut is a character that so easily could’ve been turned into a full-on villain about halfway through the show’s run, but here we are, eight seasons later, and even after knowing all of his dark and sinister deeds, he still appears to be a genuinely nice, supportive, likable guy. I really love his undying devotion to Princess Bubblegum, even going so far as to appear as a parental figure to her (“let me see your hand, young lady!”). The interactions between Pepbut and PB were truly delightful, and really helped to carry this one through. Also really dig the supporting characters in this episode; Maria Bamford is back as Slime Princess and just as hilarious as ever. Bamford never fails to carry out SP’s voice in the most sensual, and the most hysterical fashion possible.

Jelly Beans Have Power also see’s the return of Chatsberry! I do think it’s a bit odd that he is the one to chat with PB… maybe I’m just stuck with the Avatar mindset of believing that the last incarnation of said elemental always appears as the spirit guide, but I think I have my own separate skepticism. It’s revealed in Elemental that Chatsberry, Evergreen, Slimy D, and Balthus were not the original elementals, so why is Chatsberry randomly the one elemental who does end up guiding the princess (also, including Evergreen, who appears on Pim’s board at the end)? The obvious answer is that he’s the only other candy elemental in the series that we actually know of, but I can’t help but feel it’s slightly contrived. Granted, I do really like Chatsberry through his design and voice, so I honestly can’t complain. And my gripes with PB’s messy arc aside, I don’t think there were any portions of it that were bad; I truly do like how PB uses her own chemical properties to channel the elemental powers within her, thus never compromising her own desires and interests in the process. This is also the second appearance of Patience St. Pim, who unfortunately doesn’t get to do much aside from subtly unlocking Bubblegum’s powers in her actions. I do enjoy how the end very much builds up the eventual culmination of the elemental story, which is surprisingly getting a lot of attention, given AT‘s usual method of pushing arcs aside for later. Big things are coming shortly!

Only other thing to note about this one is that I feel like the episode’s title is somewhat uninspired. Yes, there’s what is believed to be a crystal in this episode, and jelly beans are in fact shown to be powerful, but Jelly Beans Have Power has absolutely no other correlation to Crystals Have Power story-wise. I’m really not certain as to why this connection was made. But, as is, I enjoy this one. It has its problems, but it’s still a lot of fun in its execution, mainly due to the character interactions and humor (love whenever Pepbut pressures PB to shoot out a candy product that she clearly cannot). This is the final “normal” episode before heading straight into two eight-part miniseries(s). Strap in, y’all, we’re in for one hell of a ride!

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Favorite line: “HEY, WOULD YOU KEEP IT DOWN DOWN THERE? SOME OF US HAVE TO WORK TOMORROW!”

 

“Frog Seasons” Review

While I’m somewhat certain that Graybles Allsorts was always intended to be a series of shorts, Frog Seasons was intended to be a full-length episode in its inception. Not sure what change occurred to demote Frog Seasons to shorts status, and it’s not like the channel was advantaged or disadvantaged by this in any way. They just stuck these 3-minute shorts at the end of episodes during the “Regular Time Adventure Show” block (otherwise known as the “Adventure Time/Regular Show Purgatory Block”) that no kids even ended up watching anyway. So I dunno, it’s a mystery to me, not that it matters much. For the most part, Frog Seasons is a delightful array of shorts that’s kind of improvement over Graybles Allsorts, mainly due to the atmosphere that each minisode possesses. Interestingly enough, the plot for the Frog Seasons shorts is borrowed from the beginning of The Witch’s Garden, a moment that I initially had completely forgotten by the time these minisodes came out.

Spring

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Original Airdate: April 2, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström

Frog Seasons: Spring is unique in being the one time (along with its sister minisode) that Breezy reappears. It’s delightful to see her once more, and I do enjoy how she and Finn are able to have a casual interaction with each other after everything that happened in Breezy. Not to say anything ended awfully between the two, but certainly… awkward. And it’s equally fitting that, in her one reappearance, Breezy breaks out yet another sexual innuendo. That girl’s got all levels of hypersexuality. Also loved how Jake rushes Finn as Breezy begins talking about pollinating. Good brother.

This minisode isn’t especially entertaining and suffers from being a bit slow-paced, though I really appreciate its laidback tone. The backdrops and skies in Spring look terrific and I love the brief moments where Finn and Jake are cheerfully swimming through the pond and engaging in small talk with each other. I’m a huge sucker for the Spring season as a whole, so the atmosphere in this one fills me with nothing but good vibes all around, and it also helps that this short initially aired in April. Made its presence feel even more appropriate. Though, like I said, it’s far from the most interesting of the shorts. When entering the frog’s kingdom, we’re treated to a very drawn out sequence with the frog inside of his room until Finn and Jake are finally kicked out. It’s a little slow, but I think the colors and atmosphere are more than enough to justify Spring‘s existence.

Summer

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Original Airdate: April 9, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto

Definitely one of the funnier shorts. One thing I appreciate about Summer is how it plays with the boys’ personalities to its best abilities. I like how Finn is simply into following the frog around for the sake of his diehard curiosity, similar to how he doesn’t mind a boring dungeon crawl in Vault of Bones because he enrolls himself in activities that are strictly for the experience. Jake, on the other hand, isn’t into the idea of pseudo-mysticism and just wants to relax with the Water Nymphs, in what is arguably a more worthwhile experience overall. ‘Specially since Finn mentions wanting to get with babes.

Temperamental Jake is always a ton of fun to watch and Summer is no exception. I love the sudden shift in his attitude when the frog finally does put on the crown (in what is a pretty spectacularly animated sequence) and even in his state of frustration, I do enjoy how he sticks with Finn no matter what. Even though he does have the opportunity to ditch his bro to chill with Water Nymphs, he still stands by Finn’s side, and even ends up getting consumed by the frog because of it. But hey, at least it’s cooler in there, right?

Autumn

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Original Airdate: April 16, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström

While I probably would’ve preferred Fall scenery akin to the paintings in Over the Garden Wall, I do appreciate Autumn‘s mid-November-ish approach to show a more colorless display, with wilted trees and muddy landscapes. I guess it’s technically more realistic to the season than the expectations we usually have for it. It’s definitely not complete eye candy for that reason, but I do dig parts of the story of this one. I truly sympathize with Raggedy Princess in Autumn; up to this point, Raggedy Princess was just sort of a gag character that other characters would shit on from time to time. This is her first real moment in the limelight, and I actually really get into her character. Her voice certainly isn’t the most pleasant, but it is sad to see that, even with her incredibly sweet demeanor, no one will stay to hear her poems that she clearly worked hard on. Even nice dudes like Finn and Jake don’t set the time aside from her. I think her character works great to emphasize those feels of isolation that typically set in this time of year.

The close of this one is alright, with Jake once again choosing his own route to go about the crown situation. The parts with RG were definitely a lot stronger… while the ending to this minisode kind of loses me.

Winter

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Original Airdate: April 23, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto

Right up there with SummerWinter is pretty damn funny. Ice King, as always, is hilarious in his desperate efforts to hang out with Finn and Jake (he even calls back to when he used to hate them back in season one) as the boys are resistant as ever. Aside from how blatantly they ignore him, Winter also features Jake’s pretty hilarious walk cycle of how he simply bobs up and down the mountain as Ice King follows him.

This one is also kind of neat on an introspective level. I like how Jake mentions that “life is short.” In their endeavors following the frog, Finn and Jake have missed out on catching up with Breezy, hanging out with Water Nymphs, and even hearing Raggedy Princess’s dope poetry. It begs the question, is one potentially unfulfilling experience more important than three individual ones? Finn mentions that it’s important to finish what you start, but at what cost? If the result is truly disappointing, then is the experience really worth the trip? Finn ends up giving up on his journey but ultimately does miss out on a sweet experience when the Frog transforms into Life and clears the snow straight off of a mountain. I guess Winter is really poking at the idea that every journey has its pros and cons, and that there’s no guarantee things will ultimately work out with any one experience. It could ultimately be fulfilling, but it’s really all about whether the trip there is actually worth it. Good on Ice King, though. Even if he got dissed by his two bros, he still ended up having the best experience in the end. Hooray for underdogs!

Spring (Again)

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Original Airdate: September 2, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström

Spring (Again) easily feels like the most unnecessary addition to the Frog Seasons series. Aside from it lacking the nice visuals or the humor of the previous shorts, it also aired several months after the initial shorts did. Hell, I kind of didn’t even realize this one existed at first. I always thought the “(Again)” meant that they would be reairing Spring a second time on television.

Not really into the script of this one at all. Jeremy Shada doing his impression of LSP is always kind of cringe-worthy to me, and Breezy doesn’t really offer the same amount of charm and compassion that she did in the original Spring short. Honey Man’s dance is certainly cute, with nice musical accompaniment from Tim Kiefer, though it’s hardly as whimsical or beautiful as it was likely intended to be. I guess the real reason Spring (Again) exists is to tie into season seven’s main theme of how “everything stays, but it still changes” in the sense that Finn and Jake continue to follow the frog even after everything they’ve been through (I’m starting to think the frog does cause some sort of time paradox) but otherwise, I thought Winter did a fine job of wrapping of this series of minisodes.

Consensus

Frog Seasons is definitely an improvement over Graybles Allsorts. Frog Seasons really works well with its visual elements, and I genuinely enjoy the idea of a series of interconnected shorts that really don’t have a consistent continuity between each other. It really adds to the anticipation of not knowing what will happen upon each segment. It’s interesting to see how each short differs according to its designated board artist; Adam Muto worked on Summer and Winter, while Hanna K. Nyström boarded SpringFall, and Spring (Again). Ultimately, I felt that Muto’s episodes were a bit weaker in the visual department (aside from some nice boarding efforts), but they were much funnier and more entertaining than Nyström’s overall. Nyström had the nice visuals and atmosphere, but her portions were a bit weighed down by their slow and somewhat dry pacing.

Best to Worst

  1. Summer
  2. Spring
  3. Winter
  4. Fall
  5. Spring (Again)

Favorite line: “Following frogs is like, one of my top 20 favorite pastimes.” (Frog Seasons: Winter)

“Broke His Crown” Review

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Original Airdate: March 26, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Ako Castuera & Hanna K. Nyström

For all of you who do not know, I will be covering the remaining episodes in the way that they were originally intended to be consumed by the show’s staff. I.E. Broke His CrownReboot will be considered season seven, Two Swords-Three Buckets will be considered season eight, and The Wild Hunt-Come Along With Me will be season nine. To avoid confusion, I will eventually be adding two separate sub-tabs under the seasonal archives tab: one for Cartoon Network’s Rebrand and one for the staff’s original production order. This is simply just to avoid confusion in the long run, and I feel as though that it’s in everyone’s best interest that I cover the remaining seasons as they were intended.

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So, with that said, let’s get to Broke His Crown! Essentially being a sequel episode to King’s Ransom, this episode revolves around the changes Betty made to Ice King’s crown and how exactly they affect him. It’s also an opportunity to further develop Bubblegum, Marceline, and Ice King’s relationships with one another, while also sliding in a heavy dose of lore on the side. Upon airing, and to this day, I feel as though opinions of this episode are very mixed. I know a lot of people who love Broke His Crown and see it as one of the strong points of season 7 (or 8. Whatever!) while other people dismiss it as  rushed with serious pacing problems. I’m a little bit in the middle, but more towards the former. I personally think some bits are a little fast-paced and downright contrived, but I actually really dig what this one set out to do. Essentially, it’s the one time in the series that Betty and Simon are permitted a happy ending together. It’s satisfying and dissatisfying in all the right ways, but feels like a truly appropriate way to wrap up their relationship without actually affecting their characters in the slightest. In general, Broke His Crown is also a great exploration of the inner-workings of the crown and what truly becomes of those who wear it. It’s visually appealing and a lot of fun, creating a unique and complex environment with some unique, yet familiar, characters.

Marceline and PB are straight up lovers in this episode. I could totally get the “oh, they’re just really close friends” argument before this episode aired, but nah, you could not convince me otherwise that this is not the direct intention of the episode. Of course, I’m sure it was frustrating for the hardcore Bubbline fans who wanted an outright confirmation from the series by this point in time, but after this episode, I just fully accepted that their romantic involvement with each other was 100% canon. They’re not even trying to hide it anymore. And, as far as their relationship goes, it’s cute! I’ve said outright before that I’m not a huge fan of Bubbline. That is to say that, while I enjoy their relationship, a lot of viewers and comic writers are under the impression that their romantic involvement with each other is the single most important aspect of the show, when it really isn’t and never was. So my opinion has soured more because of oversaturation within the fanbase and the expanded universe, but overall, I don’t dislike the way they’re presented within the series. Hanna K. Nyström has a strength in portraying the girls in a really likable way; while other writers like Jesse Moynihan and Ako Castuera have kind of struggled to make their relationship seems compassionate in the past, Nyström knows how to write their relationship with a healthy balance of charisma and snark. And hey, this is actually the last episode in the series that features Castuera as a storyboard artist, and she seems to have gotten a lot stronger when working with this dynamic as well!

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Love dem freeze-frame bonuses.

While PB and Marcy have risked being either too schmaltzy or awkward in the past, you can tell they care for each other in a very genuine and realistic way. You can sense the love between the two, but they aren’t constantly professing their feelings for one another. This is in part because the staff was probably pressured by the network to keep their relationship subtle, but also pays off in other ways. I enjoy how they spend most of the episode arguing, but it isn’t presented in an unlikable or unpleasant way. PB’s combative attitude in particular is just terrific. Not only is she hilarious to watch, but her abrasiveness actually serves a purpose. While we explored her shift in behavior towards the Banana Guards in the previous episode, we now are treated to her shifting behavior toward Ice King. The conflict between PB and Ice King is probably the most heated out of any of the main characters, as one would expect. Ice King has violated Princess Bubblegum’s privacy on several occasions, so you really don’t blame her for being so opposed to the idea of getting along with him. At the same time, however, you also understand things from Marcy’s perspective. Of course she’s going to be more forgiving towards Ice King, because 1. he represents someone she loves and cares for. 2. Ice King is probably cooler with and more respectful of Marcy than anyone else he knows. So her request to Bubblegum is honest and understandable, but so is Bonnie’s hostile behavior. And might I just say that those mamas are looking GREAT in this episode. While Marcy hasn’t gotten as much exposure to different wardrobe changes this season, season seven might just be the best collection of PB’s different outfits, to the point where I was genuinely disappointed that she returned to her standard pink dress in the very next episode.

As for Ice King, he’s his usual terrific blend of being a sweetheart, kind of a dick, and a quirky dude simultaneously, and while he’s not in this one a ton (as IK, at least) his performance really shines through in the first few minutes. I love how much he absolutely lights up when he realizes that Marcy and PB actually want to spend time with him, and how he’s so conditioned to being rejected by ladies that he thinks that he has to actually bribe people to hangout with him. That was both incredibly sweet and sad, with a touch of hilariousness when he does inevitably take the gift back for himself. While I think he provides for some of the episode’s strongest moments, I also think he offers some of the weakest, mostly because of the malfunctioning crown. I dunno, I feel like the way Ice King freaks out and behaves weirdly isn’t really that interesting… when I heard about the synopsis for this one, I expected Ice King’s “uncanny behavior” to involve flashes between himself and Simon, or just a full blown meltdown of some sorts. Ice King smashing plates over his head and rolling around on the ground just aren’t intriguing ways to hammer forward that he needs help, and it doesn’t really feel dire. I wish a little bit more was done for this aspect to make it more dramatic and/or intriguing, because the way it was executed just didn’t grip me at all. I also feel like the initial plot device of Marceline not believing Bubblegum was somewhat unneeded and a waste of time. Sure, it does provide for PB to actually grow concerned for the IK and even refer to him as “Simon,” but this episode already feels a bit tight as it is. So while I liked a good portion of the beginning, I felt that some bits could’ve been better executed, and at worst, taken out for the sake of time.

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When the girls take it upon themselves to help their icy friend, they enter the surface of the crown through virtual reality equipment. The crown’s labyrinth just looks spectacular. It’s essentially a village-type corn maze, where everything is shaded in the exact same colors as the crown, with the exception of plant life. This is exactly what I would expect the world of the crown to look like, with a heavy focus on a wildlife theme, while also keeping things technological. The labyrinth in general is interesting when I think deeply about it, and I’m not really sure how I feel about the idea overall. Granted, this entire simulation is VR, and it’s open to interpretation regarding how much of it is actually real, but I feel like it’s a little convoluted that everyone who ever wore the crown just lives in this little crown town where they’ve presumably existed for thousands or millions of years. Like, what do they even do up there? Do they need to eat? Do they socialize with one another? Do they go to the bathroom? How has Simon not lost his sanity completely? It’s generally a lot of weird concepts that never get fully explained because of time restraints, and it’s something that I have trouble wrapping my head around in a coherent way. Some of it feels like it doesn’t really make sense; Gunther’s been leaving within the crown for millions of years, and is still talking about Master Evergreen? How can he even remember who that is? I don’t fully get behind it, but it’s also something that doesn’t actively bother me because it’s genuinely awesome to visit all of the people who once were enslaved by the crown.

As I just mentioned, Gunther’s back in this one, and man, is it good to see the little guy! I loved Gunther in Evergreen, and while I was ultimately satisfied with his unfortunate demise, it is pretty nice to see him back in action in this one. I really would have never expected to have seen him ever again, so this was a true treat. It isn’t just a cameo either, he actually has a pretty active role in the story, and it’s really nice! How cool is it that we get to see the first person who ever wore the crown interact with the most recent bearer? His relationship with the girls is also really sweet, and it’s cool to see Marceline’s absolute awe at the sight of a dinosaur. Even after 1,000 years of living, it’s cool to see a species that is still relatively foreign to her. Not to mentioned the other inhabitants of the crown; let’s address the elephant in the room: Santa was the Ice King at one point. Fucking Santa Claus is canonically apart of the show’s lore. That is both hysterical and kind of fascinating in terms of a mythos. I mean, you have this legendary folklore character of whom was assumed to be magic, and it turns out that it was just some guy who ended up wearing a magical crown that consumed his sanity. That is simply wild. We also have Sven, who apparently only wore the crown once, but was still consumed by it. This kind of ties into my own headcanon that, the younger you are, the more susceptible you are to the crown’s power. We saw how easily Farmworld Finn was taken over by the crown in only a matter of minutes, and it seems the same thing happened to Sven. I’m guessing the emotional and physical maturity of the wearer really matters in terms of the crown’s influence, and it’s kind of cool that we got this bit of information that seems to imply as much.

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But of course, the real star of the show is Simon, of whom picked up on the crown’s wack behavior. It’s once again nice to see Marcy and Simon work off of each other as characters, and it’s even better to see him and Bonnie meet. Even without the crown taking him over, Simon still manages to get under PB’s skin from ignorance, though once again, can you blame the girl? She’s a scientific mastermind. While this episode is very fast-moving, it actually does make up for some of the sins of the formerly jam-packed episode Betty, in which Simon and Marcy really didn’t get a chance to interact at all. Here, Simon lovingly apologizes for not being able to spend time with her, and it doubles as both a sweet moment and somewhat of a nice “sorry ’bout that” from the staff. I also love how Simon is just a bona fide dork and is a bit socially awkward when it comes to talking to the teen-ified Marceline that he never really had a chance to meet before. The first thing he asks Marceline after he apologizes is if she has a boyfriend, and he truly feels like the most “real” character on the show. Aside from Finn, Martin, and Betty(ish), Simon is the only human character, and so I like that they make him mostly just a normal guy, but also kind of quirky. He truly is “best dad.” Of course, there’s also the great dramatic irony that Simon wishes he could go back and punch Ash, even though he already did so in Betty. Such a great running joke.

After their brief travels, they finally do run into the glitchified Betty, which mostly just makes me sad because, once again, you can tell Lena Dunham is merely there for the paycheck and could not sound less interested in what’s going on. This is her last role as the character, of which could have to do with her performance, or just other unrelated incidents, but I’m glad that this is the last we hear from her, because she really wasn’t adding anything to the character or the series by this point. Simon and Betty’s interactions with each other are actually really cute though; again, Simon and Betty’s love doesn’t feel schmaltzy and hollow and actually feels like a real relationship. Simon’s story is so mundane and simple, but truly adds to the idea that they were just two simple people who were madly in love with each other. Of course, it’s a bit different now, considering that this Betty is merely software, but it still feels authentic and ties into what I was saying earlier about how it’s a partially a satisfying conclusion to their relationship. While there’s still much, much more to be explored between Ice King and Magic Betty, this is essentially the strongest resolution they’re treated to up to this point (without giving too much away to y’all who are watching along with this blog) and nice that they’re able to have some form of a relationship while it’s out of the question. Of course, it’s all tied up a bit too quickly and neatly by the end of it, with Simon once again not being able to give Marcy a proper farewell. Regardless, it does end up with a nice wrap up of sweet moments between all of the characters involved.

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And “sweet” describes a lot of this episode by its end: Gunther met some new cool gals, Simon and Betty are able to share somewhat of a happy life together, Marceline was able to connect with Simon once more, and to really understand the relationship between him and Betty, while PB gained some empathy for Simon, and Ice King, in general. Of course, Betty isn’t truly real and Marceline won’t get to see the human version of her close friend for what seems like forever, but Broke His Crown manages to be satisfying and dissatisfying in all the right ways, as I mentioned prior. It provides from some really nice, welcomed developments, and other moments that just make sense for each character’s journey.

And Broke His Crown is just that: a thoroughly satisfying exploration of a group of characters in a really neat setting. It has its problems in pacing, logic, and execution, but manages to be really entertaining regardless to the point where I don’t really mind its problems. It’s another season seven entry that both adds to the lore of the world of Adventure Time and delves deeper into the identities of its inhabitants, of whom are continuing to grow and develop with each passing episode at this point in time.

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Favorite line: “GOODBYE, FREAKS!”

“King’s Ransom” Review

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Original Airdate: January 15, 2016

Written & Storyboarded by: Hanna K. Nyström & Andres Salaff

The oddest thing about King’s Ransom to me is that it centers around Ice King’s journey into finding the missing Gunter, which is the exact same plot of the Ice King comic miniseries that was released FIVE DAYS after this episode had aired. I mean, it’s likely a coincidence, but just strikes me as especially odd considering that storyboard artist Emily Partridge ended up being the head writer for said miniseries, and whether or not it’s canon, I can imagine that anyone who picked up Ice King Issue #1 that week suffered from a serious case of deja-vu. But, regardless, the episode itself proves to be a lot of fun, and one that works mostly on simplicity as a means of success. And who better than to capture the charming, lovely simplicity of the main cast than Hanna K. Nyström?

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Nyström only just began as a storyboard artist in season seven, but her ability to empathize and understand these characters, as well as her strong efforts in storytelling, have truly led her to be one of my favorite board artists in the latter half of the series. Like Kent Osborne, Nyström has a way of depicting the cast in such a non-cynical and loving way that is just absolutely irresistible. It’s a method that may have been a bit too sweet early on in the series, but as our main characters begin to change and evolve, it’s more than welcomed as an accurate form of development. Joining her at the helm of this one is Andres Salaff, who doesn’t have a very big portfolio in the storyboarding realm aside from this episode and The Music Hole, but his efforts in those two do reinforce his equal ability to understand the characters on a personal level. Hell, he was a supervising director for two seasons, after all!

Following up from that whole ramble, a lot of the enjoyment from this episode comes from the absolutely delightful interactions between Finn, Jake, and Ice King. I certainly view King’s Ransom as a big turning point in the relationship between the boys and Ice King. By this point in time, Finn has almost fully warmed up to the IK. In fact, he shows absolutely no sign of being angry or frustrated by Ice King, even when he’s directly inconveniencing the brothers. Of course, Jake still hasn’t fully warmed up to Ice King’s often manic behavior, and is noticeably upset with him, at least at first. Jake slowly begins to sympathize with Ice King as the episode progresses, mostly in a way that goes back to Ice King’s previously sentiment that Gunter is comparable to being Finn’s Jake (or vice-versa). Jake likely identifies in the sweetness behind Ice King and Gunter’s relationship, in the same way that Jake would do anything to save his little bro in his time of need (humorously, Ice King might actually be even more dedicated in his efforts than Jake would. We all remember Power Animal, right?) so he’s able to look at the IK from a more sympathetic outlook. It would still take a bit more time for Jake to fully treat the guy as an equal, but this is a HUGE step for him in his behavior.

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While I don’t mean to undermine some terrific conflict episodes between the brothers and their overly clingy compadre, it is really cool to see a straightforward adventure-themed episode with all three boys working together in harmony. A lot of the fun with this one does derives from all of the back-and-forth interactions between the boys, and the circumstances that befall them. This is also an episode that is particularly silly in its execution of particular elements; the literal fox chase that involves Jake multiplying into several identical (non-sentient) Jakes, Mr. Fox’s disturbance in his own lonely bedroom, the added bit of lore to Ice King that he begins to look more like Simon whenever his crown is miles away from him, and various other visual gags that are just delightful (the return of the Jake car got me particularly giddy). The concept in general, while treated in a genuine way, is equally kind of hilarious when you start to think about it. Ice King is searching specifically for “Gunter”, while there are hundreds of other penguins that take refuge in his own kingdom. I didn’t even think he could tell the difference half of the time.

Though it’s silly, a lot of the episode does work off of your emotional investment in the situation, which again, I believe to be genuine. You really get the feeling that Ice King does care about Gunter, beyond being just the archetypal sidekick for his muse. It’s probably one of his most heroic displays to date, and he constantly puts himself in dire situations, just for the sake of saving his little buddy. While Ice King’s entire existence is based around the life of a man who cared very little for his pupil, IK proves to be an improvement just by showing that he does care in one way, shape or form. Of course, some of this did read to me as a bit schmaltzy at first, but it was quickly negated when we get to the end.

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I probably sound redundant getting to this next point, but I once again think it’s SO IMPORTANT that Ice King willingly almost gives up Gunter at the sight of a beautiful woman. While I’m totally for getting bits and hints of Ice King being able to develop over a period of time, it is once again an important reminder that Ice King will never fully change as long as the crown holds power over him. And that’s alright! Ice King’s apathy and failure to understand social connections are what made him great to begin with, and while I love the connections of understanding and love that he develops throughout the series, it great that the show is still dedicated to showing off his insanity and selfishness despite it all. As for the reveal of Betty, it was pretty fine. It leaves a bit of intrigue for Broke His Crown, but doesn’t really do much for me here. I think the reveal in general was pretty obvious for anyone watching, and the Herpich-styled tin can voice just kind of felt like an excuse for how Lena Dunham couldn’t make it into the booth at the time. I do love the fakeout, however, where Ice King begins to stutter and finally calls her “be-autiful” instead of “Betty.” Once again, it’s important to remember this guy has lost his mind, and there’s very few things that can change that at this point in time.

But overall, King’s Ransom is a lot of fun. Definitely not one of the stronger season seven episodes, but one that’s delightful regardless. It’s so weird to think that the last episode based around Finn, Jake, and Ice King’s relationship was Play Date, so it’s exceptionally rewarding that this episode simultaneously gets back to the basics, while also showing clear signs of evolution. This attitude surrounding the Ice King would only continue to shift as time went on, especially within this season in general.

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Favorite line: “The last time I saw Gunter, I was yelling at him for pooting. But it wasn’t Gunter who pooted. It was me!”

 

 

“Everything Stays” Review

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Original Airdate: November 16, 2015

Written & Storyboarded by: Adam Muto & Hanna K. Nyström

I was a bit nervous that Stakes would be limited to merely laying out the backstory of Marceline over the course of 8 episodes, and boy am I glad that it isn’t. While I’m always interested in finding out new details within Marceline’s past, I can’t think of anything more boring than having her entire past history explored and leaving nothing up to interpretation. Thankfully, the deepest dive we get into Marceline’s backstory is within Everything Stays, and it provides the audience with bits and pieces relating to Marceline’s past, without putting all of the pieces together. Thus, we’re provided with new information, but our imagination is still capable of doing a lot of the work. It’s also really nice to get an episode that’s devoted to exploring Earth after the Mushroom War, and how it affected the psyche and wellbeing of our fellow humans, as well as that of Marceline.

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Pretty basic to say, but I really adore that beginning scene between Marceline and her mother. Of course, I had already seen this bit about 50 times before the episode aired because it was shown at San Diego Comic-Con in 2015, but regardless, it makes for one of the most poignant moments in the series. While we haven’t received any actual information regarding Marceline’s mother up until this point, it’s so nice that her only appearance in the series features her being as loving and caring as possible. I myself haven’t come up with a completely solid and well-thought out theory regarding what happened to Marcy’s mom, or even how she ended up getting married to a shyster like Hunson, but regardless, I’m very interested in creating those answers after seeing how close the two were. Rebecca Sugar does a splendid job in her first role as a voice actor. I somewhat thought this casting choice was odd at first, because it was hard for me to separate the voice actor from the voice, but I gradually grew fond of her performance. Sugar has this really passionate, genuine, caring voice and attitude that captures Marcy’s mom perfectly. And of course, the song is perfect as well, which was also written by Sugar. A terrific representation of youth, growing, and the series itself that never seems to wear on me. It was great to see Sugar actually sing outside of a demo version, and the visuals that go along with the tune really tug at the heart strings. Marceline gently gripping her mom tighter as the song goes along is a small detail that gets me every time.

Cutting to something as equally sad, we’re treated to an actual revelation of how Ice King ended up leaving Marceline. I mentioned in the last review about how this miniseries could tend to be riddled with awkward funny moments that often tarnish the emotional weight of the individual moments it presents, but Ice King is typically the type of character to subvert that method. I think Ice King filming the tape (that Finn and Jake watch in Holly Jolly Secrets – Part II) and then immediately shouting, “okay, bye!!” is pretty hilarious, while still remaining tragic. Part of Simon is still very much there and functioning as he mutters all that he can remember about his own life and Betty, though Ice King pretty much reigns supreme at this point. We don’t know what drove Simon overboard to the point where he decided to leave, but if anything is certain, the general gist of his decision is in clear eye: he’s a danger to Marceline. I think this scene is nicely executed, but it’s probably the only bit in the episode that I feel as though I could have gone without seeing. All of the information dished out is stuff that we already kind of knew about or could have gathered from the context clues in I Remember You. I guess I always pictured Marceline and Simon departing each other as especially devastating, while this bit just came across as mildly sad. That was probably the fault of my own headcanon at the time, but as I mentioned, this bit is handled fine and I don’t really have any big gripes with it. It just mostly feels like I’m reliving my feelings towards Simon & Marcy once more.

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Cutting to the next flashback is some new information that the series, or even any spin-off material, hasn’t really touched on up until this point: Marceline’s teen years. I wanna reiterate how cool it is that the writing staff chose to explore a story regarding Marceline’s character that has never been explored before. While I’m sure a ton of people (including myself) were wondering how exactly Marceline became a vampire, I don’t think many people were especially curious about her teen years, given that there was sooo much established within her childhood, and her later years of which she spent with Princess Bubblegum. But, Everything Stays takes a much more challenging route, by dishing out some really nice new information regarding Marcy’s character and her past. I’m not really into Marceline’s Mohawk-mullet combo, but I think it totally suits her teen-angsty self. I also love The Fool’s small role in this episode; I don’t know if I’d really call The Fool my favorite of the vampires, just because they’re all so unique and interesting in their own individual ways, but The Fool is certainly the funniest of the bunch, with some terrific voice acting from Ron Funches. Adventure Time‘s tendency towards juvenile humor is typically met with decent results, but Funches excels with it. He really gets me with even the dumbest of lines, such as, “I look like a buuuutt.” And how neat is it that Marceline actually utilizes the soul sucking abilities that she does possess? Even if she rarely acknowledges the fact that she is half-demon, it is cool to see that it isn’t just a random attribute of her character and that it actually does come into play in regards to how she obtains her various different abilities.

Moving forward, I really enjoy how paranoid the humans are portrayed to be in reference to any possible threat that faces them. After the literal apocalypse that led to dozens of different creatures being unleashed into the world, it makes sense as to why human beings would have such little trust or the ability to understand anyone outside of their species. You feel bad for Marcy, because it seems like she’s the only outsider in this world that actually wants to preserve the greater good for humans, but also understand why these humans want to avoid potential dangers as it is. The return of the animal hats was a nice touch, and it’s cool to see that they actually have a purpose and method of safety beyond just looking silly and/or hiding gils. The established human characters are fun; I think it’s especially sweet that Two Bread Tom is voiced by Tom Kenny, as it seems like a nice tribute to the talented VA whether it was intentional or not. I also think that the Bunny Girl (who is later named Jo in the Islands graphic novel) is a nice additional as well, and provides for some genuinely cute moments. Kind of cool how the Bunny Girl is voiced by Ava Acres, who also voices young Marcy. I get the feeling that Marceline sees a lot of her younger self within the little girl, which is alluded to especially with the voice acting. The way that the Mr. Belvedere theme song is clearly not as tragic as the Cheers theme song’s usage in Simon & Marcy, nor does it try to be, but it’s still enjoyable regardless. Pretty funny that Two Bread Tom wants to keep the stories of olden times relevant by singing the theme song of a corny sitcom from the 80’s. Also loved Schwabl’s small role in this one, just because that dog doesn’t get enough damn attention in this show.

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One thing that’s really been consistently great about Stakes so far is its visual flare, and this episode is no exception. The backgrounds are especially nice and never stagnant, as almost every scene within Everything Stays has some sort of shift in the color scheme in one way or another. Something as simple as changing how the sky reflects the shading of the characters is a really nice touch that keeps the episode feeling fresh throughout its entire course. The animation also picks up during Marceline’s fight sequence with the vampires who oppose her, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I thought Marceline and Two Bread Tom’s exchanges on the boat felt truly bittersweet, as the episode sought to accomplish. TBT’s fear of all the threats that face humanity (including “hungry-looking rainbows”; very nice touch/callback!) on this continent kind of puts into perspective on how massive the Earth is beyond Ooo. While I have no doubt that the entire Earth was forever changed by the Mushroom War, it is cool to think that there are possibilities for places within the world of Adventure Time where magic and crazy characters aren’t especially prominent. Of course, this would be elaborated on more in the next miniseries, but this is a great starting point. It is sad to think that Marceline could’ve been offered a home of comfort and solace away from all of the troubles of her past if she had chosen to go with Two Bread Tom and the other crew of humans before the vampires attacked. Though, since the island is later proven to be an area that is relatively close-minded among its population, things may have not fared well for Marceline in her path to acceptance.

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The eventual fight between Marceline and Hierophant (another one of my favorite vamps) is very enticing, and provides for some really fun banter in between. I mentioned in my review of Marceline the Vampire Queen that Marcy’s quirkier moments come off a little more awkwardly than any other character in the series, but man, Olivia Olsen’s reading of, “blaaaah, I don’t care!” was truly hilarious. Marceline’s humorous side benefits almost entirely from her passion towards mockery. It’s also cool to explore what exactly Hierophant’s powers provide for him; I almost disregarded Marceline’s usage of shapeshifting in Varmints as a continuity error, though I feel like this episode justifies it from seeing how many opportunities that Hierophant has in that department.

The episode leaves off on a great note, as the flashback sequence comes to an end, while building tension and anticipation regarding the identity of the Vampire King. I was excited to see what would happen in the next entry, as Marceline is left with the fact that her vampirism seems to be cured, and that the vampires she once faced are revived as a result. Jake’s face at the end really sums it all up.

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Everything Stays is great. It’s a lore-heavy episode that focuses entirely on dishing out new information, rather than leaning too heavily on what we already know about Marceline. This one also has a pretty solid atmosphere; there’s a real feeling of longing and melancholy throughout, as we explore Marceline’s confusing teen years and what’s left of humanity as we know it. It’s storytelling at it’s absolute finest, focusing on entertainment and what is important for the audience to know, without feeling too cluttered by exposition. It’s also a great debut for Swedish storyboard artist Hanna K. Nyström, who would go on to work on some truly great episodes (and some not so great ones) along the way.

Everything Stays resulted in a lot of great opportunities regarding spin-off material. The life of Jo (the bunny girl), Two Bread Tom, and the other humans is expanded upon in the Islands graphic novel (which I may eventually review on this blog) and the 2015 Adventure Time Spoooktacular elaborates on Marceline’s battle with The Moon. The 2015 Spoooktacular was also illustrated and written by Nyström. Check ’em both out if you haven’t, they’re great!

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Favorite line: “Ah, so good! I had a hoagie for lunch!”